Is it Possible to Eat Healthy on a Budget?

  • Article
  • 2 min read October 14, 2020

Cost factors into everything we do, not least of which is buying food. Let’s be honest – it can seem daunting to try and purchase healthy foods and stay within a budget.

Like many families, when my wife and I grocery shop for our three kids, we find ourselves balancing taste, health and cost. Some good news is shoppers can make healthy choices without breaking the bank. Two new studies show milk and dairy foods are affordable sources of nutrition, but replacing them and still getting the same nutrition isn’t as easy as one would think.


Unless you’d like to glug liters and liters of water every day to get your vitamins and minerals, milk and other dairy products are clear choices for affordable, nutritious diets. That’s because milk is a good to excellent source of 13 essential nutrients. It isn’t easy to find one food or even a combination of foods to take its place.

Replacing the Nutrients In Dairy Foods With Non-Dairy Foods

This was what was examined in the first study: Could you replace dairy’s nutrients without impacting how much you would pay for food or the amount you would have to eat? The simple answer is no. There would be a tradeoff. The results of this study show you either pay more or you eat more. There are options to get the same nutrition you would in a cup of milk, but it takes planning and will cost more money or require eating more food. Neither option is appealing.

Cost Efficent Animal-Sourced Foods

The second study asked a simple question: What foods comprise a least-cost diet and still meet all our nutrient requirements? This was a modelling study done by computer. So, just like a Lego race car isn’t a real race car, there are limitations, but it is still a relatively good representation. The same is true here: It isn’t exactly what we would all eat each day, but it offers an idea of what foods meet nutrient requirements and stay within budget.

Not surprising, the study showed a variety of foods – including milk, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other animal-sourced items – comprise the most cost-effective, nutrient-adequate diet.

Both studies offer a take home message that should help plan for your next visit to the grocery store: nutrition and economic benefits come from eating diverse foods, including dairy.

See also: Comparing the Cost of Essential Nutrients From Different Food Sources in the American Diet